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Chapter 12

  • WHEN they alighted in front of the arbiter's house, the chief of the atriu_nswered them that of slaves sent to the gates none had returned yet. Th_triensis had given orders to take food to them, and a new command, that unde_enalty of rods they were to watch carefully all who left the city.
  • "Thou seest," said Petronius, "that they are in Rome, beyond doubt, and i_hat case we shall find them. But command thy people also to watch at th_ates, — those, namely, who were sent for Lygia, as they will recognize he_asily."
  • "I have given orders to send them to rural prisons," said Vinicius, "but _ill recall the orders at once, and let them go to the gates."
  • And writing a few words on a wax-covered tablet, he handed it to Petronius, who gave directions to send it at once to the house of Vinicius. Then the_assed into the interior portico, and, sitting on a marble bench, began t_alk. The golden-haired Eunice and has pushed bronze footstools under thei_eet, and poured wine for them into goblets, out of wonderful narrow-necke_itchers from Volaterr~ and Qecina.
  • "Hast thou among thy people any one who knows that giant Lygian?" aske_etronius.
  • "Atacinus and Gulo knew him; but Atacinus fell yesterday at the litter, an_ulo I killed."
  • "I am sorry for him," said Petronius. "He carried not only thee, but me, i_is arms."
  • "I intended to free him," answered Vinicius; "but do not mention him. Let u_peak of Lygia. Rome is a sea—"
  • "A sea is just the place where men fish for pearls. Of course we shall no_ind her to-day, or to-morrow, but we shall find her surely. Thou hast accuse_e just now of giving thee this method; but the method was good in itself, an_ecame bad only when turned to bad. Thou hast heard from Aulus himself, tha_e intends to go to Sicily with his whole family. In that case the girl woul_e far from thee."
  • "I should follow them," said Vinicius, "and in every case she would be out o_anger; but now, if that child dies, Poppae will believe, and will persuad_aesar, that she died because of Lygia."
  • "True; that alarmed me, too. But that little doll may recover. Should she die, we shall find some way of escape."
  • Here Petronius meditated a while and added, — "Poppae, it is said, follows th_eligion of the Jews, and believes in evil spirits. Caesar is superstitious.
  • If we spread the report that evil spirits carried off Lygia, the news wil_ind belief, especially as neither Caesar nor Aulus Plautius intercepted her; her escape was really mysterious. The Lygian could not have effected it alone; he must have had help. And where could a slave find so many people in th_ourse of one day?"
  • "Slaves help one another in Rome."
  • "Some person pays for that with blood at times. True, they support on_nother, but not some against others. In this case it was known tha_esponsibility and punishment would fall on thy people. If thou give th_eople the idea of evil spirits, they will say at once that they saw such wit_heir own eyes, because that will justify them in thy sight. Ask one of them, as a test, if he did not see spirits carrying off Lygia through the air, h_ill swear at once by the Aegis of Zeus that he saw them."
  • Vinicius, who was superstitious also, looked at Petronius with sudden an_reat fear.
  • "If Ursus could not have men to help him, and was not able to take her alone, who could take her?"
  • Petronius began to laugh.
  • "See," said he, "they will believe, since thou art half a believer thyself.
  • Such is our society, which ridicules the gods. They, too, will believe, an_hey will not look for her. Meanwhile we shall put her away somewhere far of_rom the city, in some villa of mine or thine."
  • "But who could help her?"
  • "Her co-religionists," answered Petronius.
  • "Who are they? What deity does she worship? I ought to know that better tha_hou."
  • "Nearly every woman in Rome honors a different one. It is almost beyond doub_hat Pomponia reared her in the religion of that deity which she hersel_orships; what one she worships 1 know not. One thing is certain, that n_erson has seen her make an offering to our gods in any temple. They hav_ccused her even of being a Christian; but that is not possible; a domesti_ribunal cleared her of the charge. They say that Christians not only worshi_n ass's head, but are enemies of the human race, and permit the foules_rimes. Pomponia cannot be a Christian, as her virtue is known, and an enem_f the human race could not treat slaves as she does."
  • "In no house are they treated as at Aulus's," interrupted Vinicius.
  • "Ah! Pomponia mentioned to me sonie god, who must be one powerful an_erciful. Where she has put away all the others is her affair; it is enoug_hat that Logos of hers cannot be very mighty, or rather he must be a ver_eak god, since he has had only two adherents, — Pomponia and Lygia, — an_rsus in addition. It must be that there are more of those adherents, and tha_hey assisted Lygia."
  • "That faith commands forgiveness," said Vinicius. "At Acte's I met Pomponia, who said to me: 'May God forgive thee the evil which thou hast done to us an_o Lygia.'"
  • "Evidently their God is some curator who is very mild. Ha! let him forgiv_hee, and in sign of forgiveness return thee the maiden."
  • "I would offer him a hecatomb to-morrow! I have no wish for food, or the bath, or sleep. I will take a dark lantern and wander through the city. Perhaps _hall find her in disguise. I am sick."
  • Petronius looked at him with commiseration. In fact, there was blue under hi_yes, his pupils were gleaming with fever, his unshaven beard indicated a dar_trip on his firmly outlined jaws, his hair was in disorder, and he wa~ reall_ike a sick man. Iras and the golden-haired Eunice looked at him also wit_ympathy; but he seemed not to see them, and he and Petronius took no notic_hatever of the slave women, just as they would not have noticed dogs movin_round them.
  • "Fever is tormenting thee," said Petronius.
  • "It is."
  • "Then listen to me. I know not what the doctor has prescribed to thee, but _now how I should act in thy place. Till this lost one is found I should see_n another that which for the moment has gone from me with her. I saw splendi_orms at thy villa. Do not contradict me. I know what love is; and I know tha_hen one is desired another cannot take her place. But in a beautiful slave i_s possible to find even momentary distraction."
  • "I do not need it," said Vinicius.
  • But Petronius, who had for him a real weakness, and who wished to soften hi_ain, began to meditate how he might do so.
  • "Perhaps thine have not for thee the charm of novelty," said he, after a while (and here he began to look in turn at Iras and Eunice, and finally he place_is palm on the hip of the golden-haired Eunice). "Look at this grace! fo_hom some days since Fonteius Capiton the younger offered three wonderful boy_rom Clazomene. A more beautiful figure than hers even Skopas himself has no_hiselled. I myself cannot tell why I have remained indifferent to her thu_ar, since thoughts of Chrysothemis have not restrained me. Well, I give he_o thee; take her for thyself!"
  • When the golden-haired Eunice heard this, she grew pale in one moment, and, looking with frightened eyes on Vinicius, seemed to wait for his answe_ithout breath in her breast.
  • But he sprang up suddenly, and, pressing his temples with his hands, sai_uickly, like a man who is tortured by disease, and will not hear anything, —
  • "No, no! I care not for her! I care not for others! I thank thee, but I do no_ant her. I will seek that one through the city. Give command to bring me _allic cloak with a hood. I will go beyond the Tiber — if I could see eve_rsus."
  • And he hurried away. Petronius, seeing that he could not remain in one place, did not try to detain him. Taking, however, his refusal as a temporary dislik_or all women save Lygia, and not wishing his own magnanimity to go fo_aught, he said, turning to the slave, — "Eunice, thou wilt bathe and anoin_hyself, then dress: after that thou wilt go to the house of Vinicius."
  • But she dropped before him on her knees, and with joined palms implored hi_ot to remove her from the house. She would not go to Vinicius, she said. Sh_ould rather carry fuel to the hypocaustum in his house than be chief servan_n that of Vinicius. She would not, she could not go; and she begged him t_ave pity on her. Let him give command to flog her daily, only not send he_way.
  • And trembling like a leaf with fear and excitement, she stretched her hands t_im, while he listened with amazement. A slave who ventured to beg relief fro_he fulfilment of a command, who said "I will not and I cannot," was somethin_o unheard-of in Rome that Petronius could not believe his own ears at first.
  • Finally he frowned. He was too refined to be cruel. His slaves, especially i_he department of pleasure, were freer than others, on condition of performin_heir service in an exemplary manner, and honoring the will of their master, like that of a god. In case they failed in these two respects, he was able no_o spare punishment, to which, according to general custom, they were subject.
  • Since, besides this, he could not endure opposition, nor anything whic_uffled his calmness, he looked for a while at the kneeling girl, and the_aid, — "Call Tiresias, and return with him."
  • Eunice rose, trembling, with tears in her eyes, and went out; after a time sh_eturned with the chief of the atrium, Tiresias, a Cretan.
  • "Thou wilt take Eunice," said Petronius, "and give her five-and-twenty lashes, in such fashion, however, as not to harm her skin."
  • When he had said this, he passed into the library, and, sitting down at _able of rose-colored marble, began to work on his "Feast of Trimaichion." Bu_he flight of Lygia and the illness of the infant Augusta had disturbed hi_ind so much that he could not work long. That illness, above all, wa_mportant. It occurred to Petronius that were Caesar to believe that Lygia ha_ast spells on the infant, the responsibility might fall on him also, for th_irl had been brought at his request to the palace. But he could reckon o_his, that at the first interview with Caesar he would be able in some way t_how the utter absurdity of such an idea; he counted a little, too, on _ertain weakness which Poppaea had for him, — a weakness hidden carefully, i_s true, but not so carefully that he could not divine it. After a while h_hrugged his shoulders at these fears, and decided to go to the trielinium t_trengthen himself, and then order the litter to bear him once more to th_alace, after that to the Campus Martins, and then to Chrysothemis.
  • But on the way to the trielinium at the entrance to the corridor assigned t_ervants, he saw unexpectedly the slender form of Eunice standing, among othe_laves, at the wall; and forgetting that he had given Tiresias no order beyon_logging her, he wrinkled his brow again, and looked around for the atriensis.
  • Not seeing him among the servants, he turned to Eunice.
  • "Hast thou received the lashes?"
  • She cast herself at his feet a second time, pressed the border of his toga t_er lips, and said, — "Oh, yes, lord, I have received them! Oh, yes, lord!" I_er voice were heard, as it were, joy and gratitude. It was clear that sh_ooked on the lashes as a substitute for her removal from the house, and tha_ow she might stay there. Petronius, who understood this, wondered at th_assionate resistance of the girl; but he was too deeply versed in huma_ature not to know that love alone could call forth such resistance.
  • "Dost thou love some one in this house?" asked he.
  • She raised her blue, tearful eyes to him, and answered, in a voice so low tha_t was hardly possible to hear her, — "Yes, lord."
  • And with those eyes, with that golden hair thrown back, with fear and hope i_er face, she was so beautiful, she looked at him so entreatingly, tha_etronius, who, as a philosopher, had proclaimed the might of love, and who, as a man of aesthetic nature, had given homage to all beauty, felt for her _ertain species of compassion.
  • "Whom of those dost thou love?" inquired he, indicating the servants with hi_ead.
  • There was no answer to that question. Eunice inclined her head to his feet an_emained motionless.
  • Petronius looked at the slaves, among whom were beautiful and stately youths.
  • He could read nothing on any face; on the contrary, all had certain strang_miles. He looked then for a while on Eunice lying at his feet, and went i_ilence to the trielinium.
  • After he had eaten, he gave command to bear him to the palace, and then t_hrysothemis, with whom he remained till late at night. But when he returned, he gave command to call Tiresias.
  • "Did Eunice receive the flogging?" inquired he.
  • "She did, lord. Thou didst not let the skin be cut, however."
  • "Did I give no other command touching her?"
  • "No, lord," answered the atriensis with alarm.
  • "That is well. Whom of the slaves does she love?"
  • "No one, lord."
  • "What dost thou know of her?"
  • Tiresias began to speak in a somewhat uncertain voice:
  • "At night Eunice never leaves the cuhiculum in which she lives with ol_crisiona and Ifida; after thou art dressed she never goes to the bath-rooms.
  • Other slaves ridicule her, and call her Diana."
  • "Enough," said Petronius. "My relative, Vinicius, to whom I offered her to- day, did not accept her; hence she may stay in the house. Thou art free t_o."
  • "Is it permitted me to speak more of Eunice, lord?"
  • "I have commanded thee to say all thou knowest."
  • "The whole familia are speaking of the flight of the maiden who was to dwel_n the house of the noble Vinicius. After thy departure, Eunice came to me an_aid that she knew a man who could find her."
  • "Ah! What kind of man is he?"
  • "I know not, lord; but I thought that I ought to inform thee of this matter."
  • "That is well. Let that man wait to-morrow in my house for the arrival of th_ribune, whom thou wilt request in my name to meet me here."
  • The atriensis bowed and went out. But Petronius began to think of Eunice. A_irst it seemed clear to him that the young slave wished Vinicius to fin_ygia for this reason only, that she would not be forced from his house.
  • Afterward, however, it occurred to him that the man whom Eunice was pushin_orward might be her lover, and all at once that thought seemed to hi_isagreeable. There was, it is true, a simple way of learning the truth, fo_t was enough to summon Eunice; but the hour was late, Petronius felt tire_fter his long visit with Chrysothemis, and was in a hurry to sleep. But o_he way to the cubiculum he remembered — it is unknown why — that he ha_oticed wrinkles, that day, in the corners of Chrysothemis's eyes. He thought, also, that her beauty was more celebrated in Rome than it deserved; and tha_onteius Capiton, who had offered him three boys from Clazomenc for Eunice, wanted to buy her too cheaply.